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Breast Cancer Family History

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breastcancerfamilyhistoryheaderYour close relatives' health challenges may tell you about your own. 

Breast cancer is a disease that will touch 1 in 8 women during their lives. When you look at those odds, it's not the majority of women. However, when compared to all other diseases, it is right there below heart issues and definitely getting higher in awareness. We have done a great job with breast cancer awareness programs and treatments. 

Over one third of breast cancer occurrences is due to genetics. 

One of the areas that we have stressed is the link between breast cancer and family history. The odds of contracting the disease change if there are previous incidents of breast cancer in your family. Let's explain genetic risks breast cancer a bit more though, because it's a bit complicated.

A little science lesson about breast cancer. The majority of breast cancers (about 73 percent) affect women with no family history of breast cancer. In these cases a gene has to mutate multiple times in order to form cancer cells. The need for the multiple mutations to occur before a cancer forms is the reason that the percentage of people impacted is, from a numbers perspective, relatively low (less than 15 percent).

Of the 27 percent of cases that are then attributable to family history, there are two different types of paths. The first path still needs a multiple mutation to form a cancer cell. The second needs only one mutation to form a cancer cell. These two paths will result in very different odds within the family. The gene's that are known to turn cancerous on their own accord are called BRCA1 and BRCA2. When this gene mutates the likelihood of breast cancer is much higher. With families that have breast cancer this mutated gene is found in over 87 percent of the female family members studied. These extremely high risk breast cancer families are rare though.

Outside of this population (which makes up about 7 percent of the 27 percent impacted by family history) are those that have a breast cancer family history but still with different gene mutations. These mutations, called low penetrance genes, need multiple mutations of the gene prior to turning cancerous. Similar to those with no family history, the gene needs to turn more than once before forming anything cancerous.

It appears that the greater number of family members affected with genetic predisposition to breast cancer, the higher the chances that there may be some BRCA1 and BRCA2 involvement. However, for most family histories, few members are impacted and the lower penetrance genes are involved.

There are women who choose to be tested for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. These women are already aware of their breast cancer family histories. This is a personal choice. These actions or non-actions are again up to the patient and the prevalence of breast cancer in their family. For most, the course of action is diligence in monitoring their bodies and a healthy lifestyle. Environmental issues do impact breast cancer and living as healthy of a lifestyle as you can definitely won't hurt.

History of famliy breast cancer is definitely a factor to be considered. Your doctor should be alerted to this if it already has, or as soon as cancer occurs in your family. The doctor will work with you to decide what type of increased monitoring should occur for you throughout your life so that you are always aware of your breast health status.